| December 3, 2013

Wonderplay reflection                                                                                                                                     Karen Hu

Joan Almon’s keynote speech was one that I, as a prospective early childhood education teacher, found inspiring, motivating, and most importantly – relatable. Like many, if not all, educators, we have experienced those moments of helplessness and frustration when we learn about one of our students encountering a traumatic event. For Dr. Almon, her story surrounded a young boy that endured several accounts all within the first three or four years of his life. From her initial description of the child, I immediately wondered how many professionals would have written him off as someone with an emotional or cognitive disability because of his seemingly destructive and aggressive behavior; the boy would constantly throw toys and break things. I greatly appreciated how Dr. Almon instead described him as someone who “swallowed a tornado” and needed to see that broken things can be repaired, which he eventually did.

I was in awe how Dr. Almon’s recollection reflected her patience and understanding as a teacher; her anecdotes solidified how important it was for educators to recognize our responsibility goes beyond academic enrichment. Rather, it is our job to reassure our students that we care about them unconditionally, and our classrooms are the safe spaces they can go to work out their personal issues and troubles. Most importantly, I learned that although we cannot always fix any early trauma our students may have endured, we have the opportunity to “soften” the experience so the child may develop their own resilience and courage to face any other challenges that will come their way. I believe this was an important lesson to remind all teachers of, especially early elementary teachers, because we instinctively want to protect our students from everything that could harm their innocence. This can put an enormous pressure on us because some events are inevitable; instead, we should use our efforts to provide opportunities for our students to process such events in their own way, and reassure them of your dedication to them.